"Smart, audacious and often hilarious. Takes everything you thought you knew about parenting and turns it on its ear." - Jennifer Jason Leigh

op·pres·sion /əˈpreSHən/



Noun: Prolonged unjust treatment or control.

eat this before that.

put on a sweater.

give your grandma a kiss.

say thank you.

say please.

wave bye bye.

give dad a hug.

stop crying.

go to your room.


do your homework.

sit down.

stand up.

say you’re sorry.

time out.

just one more bite.

you can’t wear that.

wear this.

don’t do that.

don’t touch that.

do. don’t. do. don’t. do. don’t. do. don’t. do. don’t. do. don’t.


24 Responses to “op·pres·sion /əˈpreSHən/”

  1. Rachel says:

    Hi Jennifer!

    i just came across your blog/site yesterday just want to say how fantastic & brilliant it is…it all really resonates with how I think kids should experience life, and so often when surrounded by the traditional (and very often oppressive!)parenting model i feel like i’m the crazy one lol, (imagine! asking before you change a nappy?!!) so i would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the interesting intelligent cheerful and funny posts….they remind me to follow my intuition and heart with little ones, not just the old road tested ways…Ah such a breath of fresh air… Many many thanks, Rachel

    • Jennifer says:

      Hi Rachel!

      So glad you found me! I have not blogged in quite some time as I’m working on a book however i need to. so hopefully i’ll have a new post up soon.

      Your encouragement is just the push I need!

      So thank you for taking the time to thank me!

  2. Elizabeth says:

    My husband is from Peru and this is a common child-rearing conflict that we have. I don’t think I have ever seen a 2 year old “misbehave” in Peru. They don’t talk back, they don’t throw fits, they don’t scream and shout when they don’t want to do something. I, personally, feel that those things are GREAT for a 2 year old to do– it shows the makings of a very independent person. However, it’s really important for our marriage and a happy home that we remember and respect each other’s parenting beliefs. I have the utmost respect for my in-laws and I have seen their parenting in action. Most days I wish I could be half as wonderful as my mother-in-law. Her kids have certainly turned out fabulously. I also respect and love MY mother who raised me the way that I am raising my kids.

    It’s all about understanding WHY we parent the way that we do. I think it’s a little harsh to say that saying these things to children is going to harm them in some way. Raising children this way (the way described in your blog) will create independent adults–something that is highly valued in our culture/society in the US. Raising your children in another way (perhaps “oppressive” by your definition) will create adults who are obedient and respectful to authority. These are also good traits to have.

    I have seen parenting work beautifully both ways. Some days I get really worked up about how my husband chooses to speak with our children (because it’s not how I would do things), but if I am patient and let him finish what he’s started instead of interrupting to tell him how he SHOULD be parenting, I am always pleasantly surprised. The children ALWAYS know how much he loves them, and they learn good things from him. Different things than what I might have emphasized, but still good.

    All that matters is that we are loving and calm in our interactions with our children.

    • Jennifer says:


      Please accept my apologies! I meant to post this. Very weird. Thank you for taking your time to share you thoughts with me and my readers. It sounds like you certainly model patience, love and compassion for your children.


  3. Sarah says:

    This is such an interesting pages, and makes me reexamine some of my own thought processes too. I do believe in treating my daughter with respect and affording her an own opinion even though she is only 10 months old. I do however tell my partner off for not saying please and thank you all the time – he is half German, so I put it down to that. However, thinking about it, I have always been impressed by my younger cousin who is great at giving real compliments rather than just reeling off the standard thank yous, and I am coming to realise that real gratitude is perhaps better than engrained manners. Thank you for helping me understand this!

  4. Lily says:

    Oh, this is so good! I’m not a parent, but I’m just starting my journey working with kids and I often feel like the poor little ones don’t get to make any of their own choices. I guess the only one I disagree with is please/thank you, because I believe it should always be said, and comes about as a habit. Thanks for the message about respecting kids!

    • Jennifer says:

      Hi Lily,

      so glad u found me. and of course the goal is for all adults to treat children with respect and compassion, not just parents!

      and i can understand why you like to hear please and thank you, it sounds lovely. however i don’t agree, as you know, that a child should be constantly reminded to say certain words.

      Essentially what all of this “say please,” “say thank you,” “wave bye bye,” “Can you say hello?,” approach to “teaching” politeness translates to inside a kid’s head is: “Do this. Do that. Now do this. Now do that. Now do this. Now do that. Can you do this? Can you? Can you do it?” Constant berating a kid to perform politness—no matter how gently and lovingly—in the name of being socially acceptable is not the best way to inspire the warm feelings of gratitude and respect that you’re wanting them to show in the first place. As with all things, the best way to learn is through modeling. And as children get older, say around 5 or so, or even before if a child says something abruptly or in a way that sounds rude or that the adult feels taken advantage of, I recommend explaining that to them instead of telling them what to do to make you feel good. “when you ask for milk like that it makes me feel unappreciative” THAT’S A VERY VULNERABLE PLACE TO BE IN, TO ADMIT TO A CHILD THAT THEY HAVE THE POWER TO MAKE YOU FEEL BADLY. but it is so important for them to understand why the please and thank u is so important. etc.

      i’d like you to also read this post by the very astute Vickie Bergman over at demandeuphoria.com if you have the time:


      also here is a relevant Magda Gerber quote on the subject:

      “Politeness is both a character trait and a social skill; it is acquired through identification with, and imitation of parents who are themselves polite. Interrupting the interrupter is also impolite. Parents should not be rude in the process of enforcing child politeness.”

      “No good purpose is served by telling children that they are rude. Contrary to hope, it does not steer them into politeness. The danger is that children will accept our evaluation of themselves as rude, they will continue to live up to this image. It is only natural for rude children to behave rudely.”

      and finally, here is an excerpt from the book PARENTING FOR SOCIAL CHANGE BY Teresa Brett:
      “Like any parent, I want Martel and Greyson to be able to
      navigate social situations and be comfortable in a wide variety of
      settings. I hope that they will be able to establish social relationships
      with other children and adults, as they desire. What I’ve come to
      question, in looking at the ways we control and coerce children, is
      whether mainstream parenting methodologies are appropriate or
      even effective at achieving this goal.
      Common mainstream advice to parents is to ignore or correct a
      child who doesn’t use the socially-accepted words or tone of voice.
      If a child doesn’t use the “magic words,” we’re told we should
      correct her or we’ll reinforce her unacceptable behavior. If we
      respond to a child when she’s whining, we’re told that she’ll learn to
      whine to get what she wants. How might children experience this
      correction? Is it likely to make them feel genuine appreciation?
      When out one day with Greyson, I went to a grocery store that
      gave out balloons to children. He asked if I would get him a blue
      46 Parenting for Social Change
      one. We approached the staff person blowing up balloons and I
      asked, “Could we have a blue balloon?”. The person replied, “What
      is the magic word?”.
      I was taken aback. Of course, I’ve heard this phrase, or others
      like it, directed at children on countless occasions. As the adult to
      whom this was directed, I felt angry, humiliated, and incredibly
      frustrated. A rush of emotions washed over me and I felt as though
      I had been transported back to childhood—in spite of the fact that
      the conversation was between two adults.
      I have no memory of being told this as a child, although
      perhaps I was. The experience, however, gave me some small insight
      into how a child might feel because of the enormous power
      differential between adults and children. A simple request becomes
      fraught with humiliation.
      In our dominant mainstream culture, we rarely question being
      rude to children. This is ironic, since we insist on polite behavior
      from children and in fact are often rude to them with the goal of
      teaching them to be polite. We’ll tell a child in front of other
      people that she must say “please” or “thank you.” Imagine for a
      moment correcting your partner or an adult friend if she or he
      neglected to say “please” in a store. Few of us would do so, yet we’ll
      interrupt andcorrect a child who doesn’t “properly” make a request
      of an adult.
      I’ve also heard older children enforcing these expectations on
      younger children. Children can very quickly internalize the
      domination they experience and in turn impose it on others who
      are younger and less powerful than they are….”

      I recommend the book if you’d like to read more!

      Perhaps after reading these arguments, you’ll reconsider your belief that it please and thank you should ALWAYS be said. I’m not quite sure anything should always be any way.

      Again, many thanks for writing in and I’m glad for the children who are fortunate enough to work with you, someone who clearly respects them.


      • Irina says:

        Well, it surprising to me that somebody would have such a strong feeling as a response to being asked to say the “magic word”. Not that I’m a big fan of that, because I don’t really think that word is magic at all…
        The thing is, if adults are modeling proper behavior in public AND home, then saying “thank you” and “please” would be something child would do automatically. I do not remember being reminded to say those words, and I clearly remember everybody in my family saying thank you at the end of any meal.
        We shouldn’t force children be polite, but we should have some expectations. They will rise to the challenge!

  5. Lou says:

    Thanks for the reminder… it’s so easy to fall into the habit of micro-managing for sure :) Love your work!

  6. Ana says:

    I have been guilty of some of these lately and I know I shouldn’t be saying whatever it is I am saying even as it leaves my lips but I AM SO TIRED!!!! Anyways! It is good to have a reminder/reinforcement, so thanks!

  7. Gosia says:

    Hi Jennifer, if I’m saying to my son, get ready we need to go to the kindergarter, is that already oppression?

    • Jennifer says:

      Hi Gosia,

      Thanks for reading my post. I can’t tell if you are serious or not.

      I’m not advocating that we don’t have expectations and plans. But I think children are micromanaged all day long, often when it is TOTALLY unnecessary. It robs them of their autonomy, their relationship with their own bodies (re: hunger, temperature) and can feel very oppressive.

      Make sense?


  8. That pretty well sums it up.

  9. Tracy says:

    Oops. Just realized my comment was longer than the blog post.

    • Jennifer says:

      that’s okay tracy! the conversation around it should be much longer. i know many many would never agree with me, and i’d love to hear from them but sadly they’re not reading my blog!

  10. Tracy says:

    Yup. It’s all about respect in my book. I think the concept of respecting children is foreign to many. It sure was for me when I began my journey as a dad.
    When I was a kid, we were given orders and there was no discussion. I didn’t like it, so why did I think my daughter was going to enjoy it?
    Another great entry, btw.

  11. Sarah says:

    I feel exhausted after reading that! Thanks, Jennifer!

  12. lux says:

    thanks…i needed that.

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